Senator Pia S. Cayetano is imploring the budget department to ensure adequate funding for the infrastructure projects of state universities and colleges (SUCs) amid the urgency to realign government funds for the country’s COVID-19 response.
The senator made the pronouncement on Tuesday (May 19) during the Senate Committee of the Whole inquiry into the government’s response to the coronavirus pandemic.
“Just to put on record my concern for our budget of higher education. They are very underfunded to begin with, and we’re very slow to provide infrastructure funding for our SUCs,” Cayetano told Secretary Wendel Avisado of the Department of Budget and Management (DBM).
“If we look at the record, we give them funds not on a continuing basis, but based on a request that they make, which takes many years to be granted. And then we do not give the succeeding funds because we say that the project is already fulfilled. But we know that they get one project at a time, if at all,” she lamented.
The senator further stressed the need to prioritize education, saying that promoting innovations in higher education is essential in adapting to the ‘new normal.’ She added that supporting education is also aligned with the President’s directive to restart and accelerate the Build, Build, Build infrastructure program to reboot the country’s economy.
“It is really a deep appeal that I have for the administration to consider this because it is a win-win [solution]. We know [that the administration is bent on accelerating] Build, Build, Build. So why don’t we also keep building on infrastructure needed for higher education? We hope that we can really make it happen,” she said.
In response, Sec. Avisado assured Cayetano that the budget department will give prime importance to education in terms of budgeting.
The senator filed last year Senate Bill No. 64 or the Build, Build, Build Program for Education bill (Public Higher Education Institutions Act), which maps out a five-year priority infrastructure plan for the improvement of facilities in tertiary education.
She also filed SBN 62 or the ‘Educational Roadmap Act,’ which seeks to institutionalize an education roadmap that incorporates the needed skills and competencies that industries constantly look for in new graduates.
The senator said by ensuring proper funding for the infrastructure needs of SUCs, the government will not lose track of delivering quality education under Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 4 despite the pandemic.
“Saan po ba manggagaling ang innovation natin kung hindi sa mga kabataan? Futures Thinking, which is a different way of thinking, is really a skill and an academic pursuit [that requires that our students have access to quality education.] So it is really something that I feel strongly about,” stressed Cayetano, chairperson of the Senate Committee on SDGs, Innovation, and Futures Thinking.
The senator is promoting Futures Literacy among the youth to help the country prepare for future pandemics and other emergencies.
Last May 2, Cayetano hosted a virtual consultation with more than 80 SUC presidents from the Philippine Association of State Universities and Colleges (PASUC) to listen to their concerns and recommendations in pushing for alternative learning systems for tertiary students during the ‘new normal.’ #
In a letter dated May 20, the Philippine Association of State Universities and Colleges (PASUC) thanked Senator Cayetano for her “efforts in tackling our pressing concerns regarding the continuance of the P17.3 billion Programmed Appropriations for Capital Outlays (COs) under FY 2020 GAA relative to DBM NBC No. 580.”
“Your manifestations and inquiry during the Senate Hearing yesterday were truly reflective of your relentless support towards adequate funding of higher education for its transformation and resiliency during the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond. The way you emphasized the role of SUCs in the attainment of ‘innovations and futures thinking’ was remarkable. It heightens the need for greater funding support for higher education,” read the letter signed by PASUC President Dr. Tirso A. Ronquillo.
“It is with optimism that, through your representation, our request to Secretary Avisado will be favorably considered.”